On the whole, modern man has no solutions. So warned Alexander Herzen, in words addressed to his son at the start of From The Other Shore, a brilliant account of the failure of the revolutions of 1848.
If Herzen had been watching today’s PMQs, he would have felt nothing has changed. On the whole, Boris Johnson had no solutions. Nor did one get the impression that were Sir Keir Starmer to become Prime Minister, he would prove rich in solutions.
Today, however, all he had to do was to ask questions, and all Johnson had to do was to avoid answering them, by suggesting that there were much better subjects which Sir Keir lacked the “gumption” to ask about, notably the rail strikes.
This was not quite fair, Sir Keir did want to know how many meetings the Government had held in order to avert the strikes.
“This is the Government that loves the railways,” Johnson retorted. But Sir Keir said it was a Government which loved allowing bankers to pay themselves unlimited bonuses: “He’s rolled over on bankers’ bonuses.”
So the Leader of the Opposition is not above engaging in a touch of class war. He did not, however, wish to indicate what if any solidarity he feels with the workers who have gone on strike, a point on which Johnson repeatedly twitted him.
Chris Elmore (Lab, Ogmore) had the first question at PMQs, and used it to ask whether the PM “has ever considered the appointment of his current spouse to a government post”.
Johnson thought this question showed that Labour “don’t want to talk about what’s going on in the real world”.
Who at this PMQs did want to talk about that? Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion, Greens) asked about the backlog of 23,000 refugee applications from Afghans who had put their lives on the line for Britain, and who were suffering “an incredible betrayal”.
Johnson said she was underestimating what Britain had done to rescue Afghans when Kabul fell, and offered no solution for the unrescued.